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Baseball: Legion ball stresses consistency

Lefthander Charlie Thibodeau delivers a pitch for the New Richmond Senior Legion team during its game at River Falls on Wednesday. Bob Burrows / RiverTown Multimedia

The American Legion teams of the summer are a younger group than fans saw during the varsity baseball season of the spring season.

The talent is certainly there for the local teams, but one of the biggest learning lessons being taught during the Legion season is consistency. Some of the teams are learning that it can be challenging to be at the top of their game in pitching, batting and defense in every game.

New Richmond Senior

Post 80 faced teams at opposite ends of the experience scale last week. They faced two top programs from Chippewa Falls and River Falls, then ended the week by dominating a younger program from Plum City.

Last Monday's twinbill at Chippewa Falls resulted in a split. The host team won the opener 7-1 and New Richmond rolled to a 21-13 win in the second game.

"Our pitchers did the job," said Post 80 coach Chris Riba. That was the theme for the week, but the hitting and defense weren't always as consistent. Evan Iverson threw the first game, with Nolan Eckert and Carson Smith working in relief. But with eight errors from the defense, the game got away quickly.

The second game was a battle of big innings. Chippewa scored four in the first inning. New Richmond starter James Schutte threw shutout ball the next three innings. New Richmond took a 12-4 lead with 10 runs in the fourth inning. Chippewa struck back with nine runs in the fifth. How did Post 80 respond? By scoring seven runs in the top of the sixth inning.

"Rather than crumple, the guys came out and took care of business," Riba said.

Charlie Thibodeau led the offense with four hits and four runs scored. Iverson had three hits and four others produced two hits as Post 80 generated 19 total hits. Errors were still an issue, with only two of the 13 runs allowed being earned runs.

Errors were an issue again Wednesday in the 6-0 loss at River Falls. Thibodeau pitched the complete game, allowing four hits, but four errors by Post 80 led to problems. River Falls threw its top pitcher and New Richmond was limited to four hits, two from Fred Riba.

Post 80 swept its games at Plum City on Friday, 8-0 and 7-0. Facing a less potent opponent, Post 80 used a variety of younger pitchers to get them some mound success.

This will be a week of home games for the Senior team. They host Mahtomedi on Monday, Altoona Wednesday and Osceola Friday, with all being double-headers.

New Richmond Juniors

The Juniors got into the meat of their schedule with games Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. They lost a pair of games at Hudson Tuesday, posted an impressive win at River Falls on Wednesday and lost to Baldwin on Thursday.

The losses to Hudson came by 11-0 and 5-4 scores. Coach Brad Altena said the team didn't show much intensity in the first game. After a talk between games, the Post 80 boys gave a much better showing in the second game. Pitching was one bright spot on this night. Trent Manske pitched well in relief in the opener and Brock Unger pitched four strong innings in the second game.

Dominic LaDuke had three hits in the second game and Josh Mottl drove home two runs. Lane Bauer's triple was the only offensive highlight of the opener.

The 5-4 win at River Falls Wednesday was a better indication of this team's ability. LaDuke started on the mound, working into the fifth inning. Jaxon Altena got the final seven outs without allowing a run.

Bauer had an excellent night. He produced two hits, two RBI and he made an excellent running catch in the alley for the final out of the game. LaDuke also finished with two hits and two RBI.

The Juniors played their first home game of the summer Thursday. They were scheduled to play Cumberland, but got a call that Cumberland couldn't field a team. Baldwin stepped in and this resulted in a wild game, with Baldwin winning 21-16.

Jackson Espiritu led New Richmond with four hits and Charlie Olson had three hits. Mottl and Charlie Salmon both finished with two hits and three runs batted in.

Post 80 did some good things defensively. In both the Wednesday and Thursday games, they turned two double plays.

Post 80 hosts Prescott this Sunday at 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. The Juniors will host Amery for a pair of games on Thursday, before playing a pair of games at St. Croix Central on Saturday.

St. Croix Central

Both of Central's Legion teams got experience in close games last week.

The Central Junior team split a double-header at Amery on Tuesday and dropped a pair of close games at Altoona on Wednesday. The Senior team lost an 11-9 decision to Plum City on Thursday.

At Amery, Central lost the opener 4-2, then got the bats rolling for a 12-7 win in the second game. The bats were quiet in the opener, where Brady O'Brien pitched the complete game, without giving up an earned run.

Young pitchers Eli Ponath and Jaden Goodwin showed good promise in the second game, with Goodwin getting the win in relief. Cole Becker led the offense with a triple.

Central hit the ball more capably in Wednesday's games at Altoona. The first game was a 6-4 loss, with Spencer Trainor showing promise as the pitcher. Central lost the second game 12-8. The game was called after four innings because Central ran out of pitching. Trainor led the offense in the second game with a triple, while Becker and O'Brien both delivered doubles.

"The young guys are coming along. They're very good players," said Dan O'Brien, who has taken over as the lead coach for the program with Tom Sauve being hired as the high school principal in Elmwood last week.

The Senior team lost 11-9 on Thursday. O'Brien, Becker and Connor O'Brien all pitched. The team was missing a number of players, so it was mainly players from the Junior team who took the field.

The Senior team will play a twinbill at Menomonie this Tuesday. The Junior team is scheduled to play at New Richmond on Saturday, beginning at 2 p.m.

Dave Newman

Dave Newman has been the sports editor at the New Richmond News since 1988. He has covered the action in the Middle Border Conference, Dunn-St. Croix Conference and Big Rivers Conference for more than 30 years.

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